It’s occasionally difficult to tell if people are simply ignorant of the three shake rule or if half the population… are chronic masturbators.
~ Urban Dictionary
The first time I went to the snow I was nine months old and it’s not how fast my basinet hurtled down the icy slope with me swaddled tightly inside that I remember most vividly, but how my mother’s voice managed to overcome a five second handicap to rush up and overtake me, high-pitched and piercing: ‘Help! My baby! My fucken baby’s going into that crevasse!’
I can hear what you’re thinking – that can’t be true, he was nine months old, there’s no way they’d still be swaddling him – and you’re probably right, but I can’t be sure because I was way too young to remember anything at all. In fact, until last week, I had no idea I’d ever been to the snow. Here’s some factual back story…
I have a blog so apparently amazing that certain retailers think there’s value in giving me some of their wares. Crazy to believe, I know, but so far I have received a flower that squirts water when someone leans in to sniff it, a novelty dog poo that looks so real I just can’t bring myself to touch it and, most recently, a brand new $50,000 car which we’re currently using to hightail along the windy roads towards the snowy slopes of Lake Mountain.
Toyota offered me a week’s use of their new family car the Toyota Kluger so that I could test it out and review it and at first I was like ‘Hmmmm, I don’t know…’ because we already have a Toyota Tarago and a Toyota Corolla and you know what they say about the three shakes rule… (you don’t? Really? Well read this).
But then I mentioned the offer to Reservoir Mum and added in the fact that Toyota would provide some spending money for a road trip holiday for the whole family and when RM exclaimed, ‘We can take the boys to the snow!’ I was so suddenly intoxicated by a selfish kind of rapture that I said, ‘Oh my God! I’ve never been to the snow before!’ and was air-texting my parents about it before I’d even reached for my phone, almost passing out from the thrill, until my Dad dampened the mood a little by telling me two important things – that I had actually been to the snow before, and that family friend Trevor’s cataract operation had left him with an annoying blind spot whenever he looked to the far right.
Sweet Trevor’s struggle scritched me off my selfishness like a needle from a battered old LP record and I was shrugging along with RM as she was saying, ‘The boys will love it’ and ‘They’ve been asking about the snow for so long’ and somehow I managed to put my own need for a novel experience aside and to focus on the kids.
My parents telling me, at forty years of age, that I had actually been to the snow is exactly the same, in terms of the shock and trauma, as them sitting me down to say, ‘Son, you’re actually adopted. We got you from an agency in Africa’ and watching them morph into strangers before my very eyes. I mean, Jesus, is my whole life a fricken lie?
Still, there are positives I can focus on 1) I now have the opportunity to holiday in the snow with my whole family, to remember it, and to record the experience accurately and 2) I can look to the right without having to turn my entire body 360 degrees to the left (stay strong sweet Trevor).
Right now we’re in the Toyota Kluger travelling to Lake Mountain from our holiday home in Healesville and while Archie, Lewis, Tyson and Maki have headphones on, watching Poko on the car’s DVD player, RM and I are listening to Gold 104.3FM and trying not to break up.
We’re going to stop along the way, in Narbethong, about ten kilometres ahead, to hire our snow gear and toboggans and so far there’s been laughing and excitement and each step of the journey has followed on from the next, as planned, without a hitch, except that I cannot stop edging the Kluger over the white lines to the left and the middle of the road, and it’s this lack of skill that’s causing the first real signs of marital discord in our eighteen-year relationship.
Among the many cool Kluger features is one very effective safety function; the white line alarm, which beep-beep-beeps to keep you from drifting into roadside donut vans and when my sloppy driving triggers it again for the grazillionth time in a few hours, I turn to see something familiar in RM’s expression.
It’s as if she’s been smacked in the face with pure bewilderment and the only other time I see it is when I rush in panting from the gym and stand at the fridge draining a two litre bottle of soft drink, bucking at the neck like a pelican attempting to swallow a deep sea tuna.
Her expression is one that suggests she has been beset upon by such a level of annoyance and disgust that any memory of love and affection for me has been suddenly erased. I understand this because I feel the same way whenever I see our dog put a leg in the air to lick its balls.
‘Can’t you just stay in the middle of the road?’ RM hisses, leaning back and forth like she’s fighting the urge to head-butt me.
‘I’m hardly anywhere near the white lines,’ I scream. ‘It’s too sensitive. God… read the manual. Disengage it!’
The Kluger beep-beep-beeps again as RM opens the glove box and flicks through the manual and Tyson – probably buffeted by the soft steady breeze of potential divorce – removes his headphones to say, in a sing-song voice, ‘We’re going to the snow Dad. We’re gonna die.’
‘We’re not going to die, Tys,’ I say. ‘Who says we’re going to die?’
‘Lewis,’ he says.
‘I can’t find it,’ RM says, corneas twitching, reaching over and pushing several buttons on the steering wheel and succeeding in turning off the DVD the boys were watching and just as I’m telling myself to stay calm, to not look at all the buttons she’s pushing, to ignore the sudden brilliant chill of air-conditioned air that causes my scrotum to bunch up like a slater beetle, to just keep my eyes on the road, and to stay the fuck away from the white lines, the Kluger says beep beep beep again…
‘We’re going to the snow,’ Tyson sings. ‘We’re going to die’
‘We’re not going to die,’ I say.
‘Yeah we are,’ Lewis says. ‘In a snow storm.’
Beep beep beep.
‘Oh my god!’ RM says.
‘I wasn’t anywhere near the fricken line!’ I scream, pushing every button on the steering wheel in a nanosecond. ‘Stop looking at me like I’m gulping down sort drink straight from the bottle.’
‘What?’ she says, her expression of disgust deepening in a way that makes me thankful this car didn’t come with a set of steak knives.
Inside the white lines, I say to myself, as my eyelids climb towards my forehead like they’re under the g-force pressure of a just launched rocket. ‘Snow storms aren’t even real, Lewis! They only happen in movies.’
‘Nah,’ Lewis says.
‘And plus… they have shelters… stacked with food,’ I say.
‘We’re going to the snow…’ Tyson sings.
Beep beep beep, goes the Kluger.
‘… we’re going to die.’
Although RM drops the manual she does nothing but look straight ahead and in response to her horrible, horrible silence I slow down to forty, lean forward – so tense in the abs I almost cramp – before saying, ‘This is fricken insane!’
‘Fricken!’ Maki says.
‘We might die driving off the mountain?’ Archie asks.
My nose is running due to the stress and it’s as I sniff and say, ‘That’s it! No one’s allowed to talk about dying!’ that I run a manic minute of tapping buttons and rebounding in panic from white line to white line like a silver ball between the bumpers of a pinball machine and when I chance a glance back at RM I realise she’s a little entertained by my apparent freak out, almost chuckling, bemused, and says, ‘At least we’ll know we’ve crossed the white line as we plummet to our deaths Archie.’
‘Beep, beep, beep,’ I say, noting the return of a twinkle in her eye that suggests she’s remembering – despite all the irritation – why she loves me.
‘We’ll be in Narbethong soon,’ she says. ‘Sit back and relax you psycho. We’ll work out how to turn off the alarm when we get there.’
I can only smile back and even laugh as the death predictions continue to come from the boys in the back because, seriously, this isn’t the high drama of a basinet hurtling towards the gaping mouth of a baby-swallowing crevasse, or the humiliation of breaking the three shakes rule at a crowded urinal, we’re on a pretty cool family holiday and it’s only just begun!
Narbethong looms and the beeps will be soon be gone and we’ll head off with a boot full of snow gear and – beep beep beep – this brief irritation will be forgotten as soon as we take out first step onto the sweet slope of Lake Mountain and, really, getting this friction out of the way so early is a good sign that the rest of the trip – beep beep beep – will run smoothly and within seconds we’re singing along to ‘Take The Long Way Home’ by Supertramp and I’ve convinced myself that this will be the best family holiday ever and that – beep beep beep – nothing else could possibly go wrong…
… or could it?
Come back next week to find out.
*This is not my review post for the Toyota Kluger. That will come in the next few weeks. You won’t want to miss it. There are archetypes in it!